McLaren come away from Bahrain with just four points to show for their efforts in today’s grand prix, despite the fact that both cars started the race within the top four.
Lewis Hamilton had problems with his left-rear wheel in two of his three pit stops and could only finish in eighth place whilst Jenson Button struggled with poor pace all afternoon and retired after a late puncture.
“There are good times and bad times in motor racing,” said a philosphical Hamilton. “I guess this was just one of those days.
“By rights we should have been fighting to finish in the top four today, but it didn't work out like that in the end. The delays in the pits were a big part of that, of course. For the driver sitting in the car, that's always frustrating, because you're just waiting and there's nothing you can do to help.
“We lost a bit of world championship momentum today – but, on the plus side, we still picked up four world championship points, and every point you score is valuable in a season as close-fought as this one.
“Now we'll head into the European season, and it's clear that we've got to do two things: we've got to work on the pace of our car and we've got to improve our pitstops.”
Button explained that he could have made up a couple of places towards the end of the race if it hadn’t been for the problems that dogged him in those closing laps although, ultimately, the car was tricky to drive for most of the race.
“I didn't have a very good balance today: I was struggling all afternoon with oversteer,” explained the Brit. “We were taking front wing out of the car all the way through the race, in fact.
“However, my final stint was a long one, and, if I hadn't struck trouble, I reckon things would have got quite interesting in the final laps. Some drivers had pushed harder at the start of that stint, but I'd been looking after my tyres. Into the last five laps, I started pushing pretty hard, and I caught up with Paul [di Resta] and Nico [Rosberg]. But, just as I braked for the final corner [on lap 53], the right-front corner lifted up in the air and I realised I had a [left-rear] puncture. So I quickly radioed the team, and pitted.
“In the last few laps, the car sounded really noisy. I think the initial problem was an exhaust failure, then my puncture, and then a differential failure; so I had to retire.
“It's been a pretty difficult weekend for the whole team.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh acknowledged that it had been a poor afternoon for the team, but was able to draw some positives from the weekend in Bahrain.
“Clearly, our performance was disappointing this afternoon,” he commented.
“Having said that, both Lewis and Jenson drove very well in extremely challenging conditions.
“Lewis pulled off some sensational passing manoeuvres in his efforts to push his way through to the front, but in the end he was let down by two slow pitstops, both of which were caused by delays at the left-rear corner of his car. Jenson's pitstops were trouble-free, by contrast, so we'll have to investigate what the problem was with the left-rear corner of Lewis's car.
“Jenson, too, had a frustrating run, which was finally curtailed by a puncture and a problem with both his differential and his exhaust, the combination of which forced us to retire his car. Again, we'll investigate what caused those problems in due course.
“Having said all that, we're in second position in the constructors' world championship, just nine points behind the leaders; equally, our drivers lie second and fourth in the drivers' world championship. Lewis, in second, is just four points off the lead.
“From here we travel to Barcelona, on which circuit we performed strongly in pre-season testing.
“Lewis and Jenson are as resilient as they are competitive, so you can be well sure that in Spain they'll both do their utmost to score as many points as possible in an effort to put Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back at the top of both the drivers' and the constructors' world championship standings.
“I've said it before and I'll say it again: the 2012 season is shaping up to be both gripping and unpredictable. Some races you win, some you don't. That's motor racing. But, above all, motor racing is a team sport – and I probably know better than anyone what a superb bunch of men and women the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is made up of, which is why I'm utterly certain that every last one of them will now work as hard as is humanly possible to make sure that, on the sweeping curves of the Circuit di Catalunya, we're back where we belong: at the front.”